Rafael Contreras-Galindo, PhD, Publishes Research That Could Lead to New Treatments and Prevention of a Group of Rare Diseases

AUSTIN, Minn. – The Hormel Institute’s Rafael Contreras-Galindo, PhD, Assistant Professor and leader of the Genome Instability and Chromosome Biology research section, has published a major discovery in scleroderma. Scleroderma is a group of rare diseases that can be fatal. Problems arise in the blood vessels and internal organs, often also associated with hardening and tightening of the skin.

Dr. Contreras-Galindo’s team has shed important new light on how scar tissue forms in scleroderma, a process known as fibrosis. The research article is entitled “Centromere defects, chromosome instability, and cGAS-STING activation in systemic sclerosis” and was published in the prestigious research journal Nature Communications.

“Decades ago, scientists discovered that scleroderma patients produce anti-centromere antibodies (ACAs). While ACAs have been a helpful diagnostic tool for Scleroderma disease progression, the mechanism of ACA production in Scleroderma has not been thoroughly explored,” said The Hormel Institute’s Souren Paul, PhD, who served as first author on this article. “This research study is the first to characterize centromere defects, ACA production, and fibrosis in scleroderma.”

This research advances our understanding of how scleroderma develops and highlights a new opportunity for treatment of the disease.

“Uncovering the origins of fibrosis in scleroderma skin cells puts us closer to prevention and early treatment. This research is a breakthrough not only for scleroderma, but for other autoimmune and fibrotic diseases as well,” said Dr. Contreras-Galindo.

This research was supported by the National Scleroderma Foundation.

The full paper is available here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-022-34775-8

The Hormel Institute is an independent biomedical research department within the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Collaborative research partners include Masonic Cancer Center UMN (a Comprehensive Cancer Center as designated by the National Cancer Institute, N.I.H.), Mayo Clinic, and many other leading research centers worldwide. The Hormel Institute, which tripled in size in 2008 and doubled again in size in 2016, is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research technologies and expert scientists. Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute will broaden its impact through innovative, world class research in its quest to improve human health.